by Miko Johnston

No tutelage or reflections on my writing today. I’m attempting to reboot – physically, emotionally and creatively. Instead, I want to know what you, our readers, have to say.

My original idea for this week’s blog post was to ask you if you’ve incorporated any of the recent turmoil in your writing, or if you’ve chosen to sidestep it. I see that topic very differently now than I did when I first wrote this piece.

Back in 2018 I began a mentoring program for a local high school’s creative writing class*. Along with other published authors, I offered critique and encouragement to these young writers. Alas, a combination of budget cuts and Covid put the program on hold for over a year, but it has been reinstated. I recently received sixteen submissions from the current class and as I always do, I read each entry before dividing the work between the volunteers.

In the past, many of the stories mirrored themes from books and television shows that were popular, filled with paranormal characters ranging from vampires to dragons. Other plots were taken from everyday life – going to school, hanging out with friends, getting dumped by a boyfriend, and family squabbles. One or two pieces dealt with darker subjects, usually following a death or other traumatic loss, but the majority had a light tone and many were flat-out funny.

The class assignment was to write a piece of flash fiction. With their submissions came a note from their teacher, informing me that prolonged isolation from school, and each other, had made her students shy and hesitant to share their work, so it lacked the usual peer review. I assumed the writing would be rough, and it was, but not in the way I expected.

I was shocked but not surprised at the bleakness that pervaded every single submission. At least half included nightmarish scenarios, and most involved death or dying. I felt saddened because I knew this was not an attempt to be “artsy”, but a reflection of the reality these teens face in uncertain, and even frightening, times.

My volunteer mentors’ purpose is to encourage and uplift young students in their writing, but somehow a verbal pat on the back for a good story or vivid imagery doesn’t seem enough. Nor do I want to push them into further gloominess. Does expressing dark thoughts on the page exorcise demons, or give them life?

We may have enough time for a second round of submissions. Should I ‘interfere’ and suggest writing prompts that would prod them into some more positive thoughts, or let them write what they want? What would you say to these teens?


Miko Johnston, a founding member of The Writers In Residence, is the author of the historical fiction saga A PETAL IN THE WIND, as well as a contributor to anthologies, including LAst Exit to Murder and the soon-to-be-released Whidbey Landmarks. The fourth book in her series is scheduled to be published later this year. Miko lives in Washington (the big one) with her rocket scientist husband. Contact her at mikojohnstonauthor@gmail.com


Past, Present, and Around the Corner

I perceive my goals with my blog thinking and writing efforts–are to improve my own writing, while taking our readers along the trip with me—in case my issues and insights are more universal than just me. Said a different way, my sharing all this writing angst is hopefully to mirror what some writers are also feeling/thinking; and for readers, emphasize the fact it’s not just sitting down at the keyboard(smile, smile) and pounding out a book. At least not for me!

And most importantly in my thinking— is I want readers to gleefully jump full-steam into the story happenings, and want to be there. For the whole point—bottom line in my mind—is fiction writing and reading is to enjoy a chunk of time in our lives.

Writing and reading should be Fun. With a capital “F”!

Last year I focused on characters. This year I’m going back to scenery. I say back to, because much of my novice nattering was a lot about how important scenery and characters are. Well, I’m still of that mind, but hopefully I’m thinking and working on both on a deeper level. This year back to looking at scenery with more veteran eyes. Because “A-Number-1” for me as a reader, is escapism. Going somewhere that isn’t my house(more specifically, my couch!)

I write third person, omnipotent—all seeing and all knowing, ha, ha! Third person, can be omnipotent when it comes to viewing the world from the outside, or viewing through a characters perspective—knowing what he/she—actually what everyone—is thinking or doing. And that’s where the writing competence comes in—when and how to present the scenery my characters are acting in. With the key goal of sensory intake of the reader—bringing them into my story.

So today is “sensing” the scenery. And here’s what I’m thinking . My first “new thinking” inclination is the past is more easily able to be internalized by a reader if “told” by the characters themselves. Not through omniscient expose. More often than not, I’ve filled in past happenings as the omniscient storyteller. But, if a character was actually there, they should share their vision. We should see what they saw, not what the author thinks is a pretty or interesting picture…

An example off the top of my head—as narrator I might say about a past event, “It was a rough fight, hard punches thrown, blood drawn and splattered all over.” While a character would say/or think, “God, when I got smacked in the mouth, it really hurt against my teeth. I still remember the taste of my own blood…”

And if talking about scenery in the past in particular, I could say “it was a cool summer morning, and xxx remembered that first day it started. Indeed, her minds eye could once again see that sky as she looked up and from her books and saw such beautiful colors – as the sun rose…”  OR xxx rubbed her eyes and looked up from the book she was reading, and the scratchiness she felt in her right-eye reminded her of a similar day two years previously—feeling the same ocular irritation, seeing almost identical colors on the horizon, experiences almost identical feelings of apprehension….” I’ll stop(smile) getting carried away.. The goal, I think, is to bring the past out of the background, into a current plot happenings.

So the take away, I think, even though you might be writing in third person, sensory recounting the past should be done when possible through a character’s eyes. This is going to be hard for me because I like past stuff to come out in the “mystery reveal.” Hmmm. And the combining this thought with sensory perception exposition. Hmmm. But using my thoughts from last year on characters, and how they sensed the past, is a good place to start I think..

Speaking of last year, on a personal note, so glad 2021 is in my rear view mirror. My thinking is probably psychological craziness on several levels, but for me, good riddance none the less… And hello 2022!

Happy Writing Trails!

Are You RESOLUTE? Or not…

Yeah, yeah, I know. Nobody makes resolutions at New Year’s anymore.  A least not ones they can keep beyond the 31st of January. (Surveys report that 47% of resolution makers can’t keep them until February 1st.)


I have some suggestions, tips, and encouragements if you really want to change something in your life/writing in 2022.

From the Hints From Heloise column, I found these believable suggestions.

  1. Be specific.
  •  Don’t vow to “Lose weight” but, to Lose 20 pounds by May 1st.
  •  Don’t vow to “Exercise more” but, to Walk 2 miles a day for 4 days a week.
  •  Don’t vow to “Write more in 2022” but, to Write 2 chapters, or 2,000 words, or a complete short story or article each week.

2. Then add your answer to the question, “why?”

  •  Because I’m too young to be heavy and it makes me look matronly.
  •  Because walking is healthy for me, and the kids (dogs, Hubby) can go with me.
  •  Because I’m a writer and I want to finish my book and/or publish my work.
  1. Put these (your) resolutions on 3×5 cards and tape them to your bathroom mirror. Read them aloud to yourself every morning.
  2. Keep track of your progress.
  3. Reward yourself when you accomplish each one!

(If you try this, let me know how it works!)

Hey, have you heard this one? “I was going to quit all my bad habits for 2022. But then I remembered: Nobody likes a quitter!”

Here’s a unique take from The Victoria Magazine, letters, Jan/Feb.

        Says Wendy J. “Decades ago, a friend and I came up with the idea of “un-goals” instead of resolutions. This gave us permission to give up things we detested! I gave up zucchini. For years I had tried one recipe after another to use the piles of this vegetable that I received from neighbors’ gardens or the market. I finally decided that they all tasted the same because I truly dislike zucchini!”

Do you have something you really dislike and will renounce in 2022?

(Let me know, and I’ll rejoice with you!)

Do you have a (mental) list of what you want to do “someday?” Here are a few examples: (I love #2.)

  •  Finish the book I’m writing
  •  Spend a season living abroad
  •  Read that stack of books I’ve been accumulating
  •  Add weight training to my workouts
  •  Plan day trips with my family
  •  Schedule those _____________ lessons I promised myself I would take

Resolve to move these from the  “Someday” to the “In-progress” column.

(Maybe I’ll join you on those lessons!)

From Cathy Baker’s Creative Pauses Facebook group, Dec 31, 2021.  Choose a word or two as a theme for 2022. (Easier than a whole resolution.)

There are many websites that can suggest words to you, or give you ideas. Think of your goals/hopes for the New Year, and use these or other sites to help you choose.  Some even give you ideas on how to make the word stick for 365 days.


(Scroll down to the 100-word list at the bottom, Abundance to Zest.)


(Schroll down to the 150-word, printable, non-alphabetized list.)

        OR… for heaven’s sake, we are writers & readers… pick your own. Haha!

(Let me know if you pick one and what it is, or maybe keep it secret.)

Here are some suggestions from the Orange County Register newspaper, on the personal side, with specific fill in the blanks.

  •   Mend a relationship with _______________.
  •    Be more kind to _________________.
  •    Call _______________ whom you haven’t spoken to in a long time.
  •    Adopt or foster a ___________ (animal) and take good care of it.

(Or sponsor a child.)

From an article in The Epoch Times:

  •         Get inspired by reading blogs you love (like The Writers in Residence).
  •         Begin with tiny stuff – make it a habit that is “too easy NOT to do.”
  •         Find a friend or family member for support.
  •         And lastly, don’t call them NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS, rename them as “January Objectives” or maybe even “Today’s List.”

(And check those buggers off! I’ll celebrate with you.)

For me, three for ’22:

  • Try new recipes from my “Eating Clean” cookbook at least twice a week.
  • Shorten my “screen time” by half (PC and phone). Use a timer if needed.
  • Cut out sugar (again) to help with inflammation issues.

(And YOU can check on ME at the end of the month/year. Really!)


Our Faith Bible Church pastor gave us this verse for the year:

Romans 12:9b. “Detest evil; cling to what is good.”


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